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Uttering a False Check in Massachusetts

checkIn Commonwealth v. Robinson, the defendant was convicted of two counts of uttering a false check. The defendant came into a bank in Cambridge in 2011 and presented a check at a teller window. The $8,539.29 check made out to Bonnie Green was to be deposited into a savings account held by Bonnie Green. It was drawn on another bank account held by the Clark S. Binkley Company.

A few days later, the defendant withdrew money from Bonnie Green’s savings account. On the same day, the bank from which the check had been drawn returned the check and marked it as an altered fictitious check. An investigator for bank fraud found that the other bank hadn’t returned the check, based on insufficient funds. He obtained surveillance footage associated with the deposit.

A few days later, the defendant came to another bank branch and presented a check to be deposited into Megan Neilson’s bank account for over $8,000. It was drawn on a company account at another bank. The check was returned to the bank unpaid. A fraud investigation was started, and surveillance footage was reviewed.

The account holder confirmed she had an account but didn’t make the deposit. Her account was closed. The name associated with the check confirmed she hadn’t made the check and wasn’t familiar with a company in her name, although she lived at the street address listed on the check. She confirmed there was more than $26,000 in unauthorized withdrawals from her account.

Two hours after the second deposit, the defendant deposited another check at the first bank, again to someone else’s account from a check with the false company name. When the bank from which the check was drawn returned the check without paying, another fraud investigation was started. Surveillance footage showed that the defendant withdrew money from the bank account two times after making the deposit.

A detective from the police department contacted the bank investigator, who gave him the surveillance photos. These photos were sent by email to others in the department. A police officer gave him some information, and so the detective got a photo of the defendant from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The detective executed a search warrant for the defendant’s home.

At the home, the detective found many documents with the financial information of numerous individuals. One of the individuals confirmed he didn’t know the defendant or anyone by her name, but all the information about him was accurate. Other items were also discovered, including a check-writing software registration form and blank check paper.

The defendant was charged and convicted. The appellate court explained that in order to secure a conviction for uttering a false check, the prosecutor needed to show:  (1) the defendant offered as genuine (2) a forged instrument with (3) the intent to defraud. Someone’s intent is a factual matter that may not be proven directly, but it may be proven through inferences from facts and circumstances.

The appellate court found there was enough evidence for the jury to find that the defendant uttered a forged, false, or altered check. It noted that the jury was instructed that they couldn’t consider the notation “altered fictitious check” on the returned check for its truth. However, the jury had enough evidence to decide beyond a reasonable doubt that the check was false, based on the evidence that the defendant deposited and took out funds from someone else’s account.

The court further found that the jury could infer the defendant’s knowledge and intent based on the numerous documents that had financial information, as well as the check-making materials in her home.

The defendant argued that the trial judge had mistakenly admitted bad acts evidence. The appellate court explained that the prosecution couldn’t introduce evidence of a defendant’s misbehavior for the purpose of showing a propensity to commit the crime charged. However, this evidence can be admitted if it is relevant for another purpose.

The appellate court explained that the trial judge had properly admitted evidence such as check-making materials that allowed the jury to reasonably infer the defendant was engaged in a pattern of conduct, and she’d knowingly passed checks that were false, intending to defraud. Evidence of passing other false checks was properly admitted to show her intent and lack of mistake. The judgment was affirmed.

If you are charged with a theft crime in Massachusetts, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss the criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.

More Blog Posts:

Assault and Battery Causing Serious Injury in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published January 14, 2015

Receiving Stolen Property in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 15, 2014